China's out-of-control rocket landed in MEXICO?23-ton spacecraft which may have broken in two while crashing to Earth

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  • The rocket was used to launch the third and final piece of China's new Tiangong space station on Monday
  • It was initially expected back in Earth's atmosphere tomorrow morning
  • However, remnants of the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10.08am UK time (6.08pm Beijing time)
  • Experts now believe that pieces of the rocket could have landed in Mexico 
  • Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, says China did not share specific trajectory info with the space agency

 Authorities are still searching for an out-of-control Chinese rocket that is believed to have fallen back to Earth this morning.

The 23-ton rocket was used to launch the third and final piece of China's new Tiangong space station on Monday, and was initially expected back in Earth's atmosphere tomorrow morning.

However, remnants of the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10.08am UK time (6.08pm Beijing time) today. 



Spain was identified as one of the countries in the rocket's path, causing several Spanish airports to close their airspace.

But experts now believe the rocket may have broken in two while crashing to Earth, with parts potentially hitting Mexico.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Center or Astrophysics, tweeted: 'Some debris could have made it to Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca. In fact, possible but not likely that debris could have made it as far as Tabasco province.'

Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, has revealed that China did not share specific trajectory information with the space agency.

In a statement, he said: 'Once again, the People’s Republic of China is taking unnecessary risks with the uncontrolled rocket stage reentry of their Long March 5B rocket stage. They did not share specific trajectory information which is needed to predict landing zones and reduce risk.'



Mengtian, or 'Celestial Dream', joins Wentian as the second laboratory module for the station, collectively known as Tiangong, or 'Celestial Palace'.

Both are connected to the Tianhe core module where the crew lives and works.

As the rocket tumbles back down, it will send large and heavy pieces of debris that will hit the surface of the Earth.

Debris from the rocket, flying around the world at 17,500 miles per hour, is being tracked live by the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking.

It requires careful monitoring as it is one of the largest pieces of debris re-entering the atmosphere in recent years.

At 10:33 GMT, US Space Command confirmed that the rocket had re-entered the atmosphere over the south-central Pacific Ocean.

Then at 12:06 GMT, it added that a second atmospheric reentry had been confirmed over the Northeast Pacific Ocean region, suggesting the rocket may have broken in two as it fell to Earth.

McDowell tweeted: 'The rocket was tumbling. I suspect that it broke in two pieces in the upper atmosphere at the very start of reentry, and one of the pieces was denser and stayed up slightly longer.'

So far there have no confirmed sightings of debris.  

Canadian Astronomer Erika tweeted: 'The uncertainty of where the large debris will ultimately land presents a level of risk to human safety and property damage that is well above commonly accepted thresholds.

'If your latitude is higher than that of France or Portland, Oregon, you're probably in the clear.'

The rocket measured 17.8 meters and had a diameter of 4.2 meters at the time of lift-off.

Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesman, said: 'The rocket is designed with special technology; most of the components will burn up and be destroyed during the re-entry process, and the probability of causing harm to aviation activities and on the ground is extremely low.'

Like its predecessors, Mengtian was launched aboard a Long March-5B carrier rocket, a member of China's most powerful family of launch vehicles, which have all made uncontrolled crash landings back to Earth.

Aerospace Corporation previously said that 'there is a non-zero probability' that the debris will land in a populated area – in other words, it's not impossible.

'A re-entry of this size will not burn up in the Earth's atmosphere,' said Aerospace Corporation, which is based in El Segundo, California.

'The general rule of thumb is that 20-40 percent of the mass of a large object will reach the ground, though it depends on the design of the object.'

In a news conference on Wednesday, Ted Muelhaupt, a consultant for the Aerospace Corporation, said: 'Here we go again.'

The Philippine Space Agency had earlier this week warned that the drop zone of the debris could be near its islands.

The most recent was the booster of the rocket that launched July 24 and because the booster was racing around Earth's orbit every 90 minutes, the exact point to where it would plummet from the sky was impossible to predict.

Fortunately most of the rocket burned up in the atmosphere, but up to 40 per cent of it was predicted to survive the fall from space - and some of the pieces were recovered around South Asia on July 30.

The reports, however, stated there were no injuries from the debris.

'All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk,' Bill Nelson said in July.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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